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Employer Spotlight: Pure Dental Brands

Company is reaching out to older workers to meet the demand for dental care talent

People at a dental office

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En español | When it comes to helping its employees of all ages grow and work better together, the team at Pure Dental Brands practices an approach called “servant leadership.” The idea is that — instead of just giving orders — managers, supervisors and other experienced employees should focus more on helping others develop and grow professionally.

"Servant leadership is being able to lift up others who are on your team and in your organization to help them be successful,” says Ashley Brooker, vice president of human resources for the health care company that operates 56 dental offices in eight states (Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia). Pure Dental Brands is one of more than 1,000 companies that have signed AARP's Employer Pledge and committed to promoting equal opportunity for all workers, regardless of age.

The servant leadership philosophy can help multigenerational teams flourish by building the mentoring relationships that workers of all ages value, according to AARP research. Brooker recently spoke with AARP about the roles that older workers play as part of Pure Dental's team. The following are lightly edited excerpts from that conversation.

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How are older workers helping Pure Dental Brands meet its workforce needs?

Brooker: The demand [for dental care] continues to grow, but the training schools are not putting out the same number of graduates that they used to. The candidate pool is shrinking, so there's a lot of competition for candidates. And sometimes, there are just not enough candidates to go around. It is one of the reasons why we are so interested in engaging with older folks. We saw that there may be somebody who was a dental assistant, a hygienist or even a doctor. And maybe they're retired, or maybe they're approaching retirement age, and they just want to work a day or two a week. That could be a good strategy for us to get a part-time older workforce that already has the skills and experience. We offer family-friendly days and hours. So that's really good for all ages of people, whether you're just starting out and you want to work a lot, or whether you're older and maybe you're working within Social Security [maximum income] limits.”

You've mentioned the servant leadership approach and mentoring. What roles have you seen older workers play in that strategy?

Brooker: We find that older workers are very valuable to our organization. One, because if they've been in the dental industry before, they likely have good knowledge, skills and experience that they can bring with them to this organization. We have used them in a mentor capacity before. The majority of our clinical directors are over the age of 50, and their main role is mentoring the younger dentists who are just coming out of school.

How do you see your workforce growing and changing over the next few years, and what part will older employees pay in that process?

Brooker: I think that we probably will have more of a presence in the part-time workforce. Some of that is going to be due to [the COVID-19 pandemic]. With schools being virtual or partially virtual, some individuals may need to spend more time at home. Some people who were in retirement may have seen losses in their 401(k)s or their retirement savings, and they need to come back into the workforce. So I definitely see us increasing our percentage of part-time team members.